Today in Writer's Corner, we meet CK Miller.
Amanda: Hi Christy. Thank you so much for coming along to chat today. As the author of The Roanfire Saga series, I’m fascinated to hear your process behind this vast and amazing medieval world. It’s got everything! Adventure, mystery and action plus magic! So let’s jump right in and talk about The Roanfire Saga series. Can you tell us about your approach to the world building process? Was there a particular thing that got it all started?
CK: World building… where do I start? The world of Roanfire was built on many different things that came on gradually. At first, I simply wanted a medieval world reminiscent of the village where I grew up in Germany. The smell of the bakery when I woke up in the morning, the slick cobblestone road I walked every morning to school, the toll of the church tower in the center of the village, and the huge Linden Tree that stood in the center of the market-square. As the story evolved, the world expanded. I remember festivals where the market-square was lit with lights, set up with tables and a stage, and alive with music and laughter. I wanted to include that. I was too young to stay up and participate, as these parties would last well into the night, but I remember listening to the celebrations as I tried to sleep. Eventually, Roanfire grew to the point where I needed to stop writing and sit down and draw a map of all the places that my characters were visiting. They were getting lost! And I was losing track of how far they were traveling.
I still feel like I have a lot of work to do, and a lot to learn about worldbuilding. I’ve been working to incorporate more myths, legends, and tavern songs to give Roanfire a bit more depth.
Amanda: You’ve portalled me straight out of my chair and into Germany! I can sense a clear blending of real life and fantasy here. With that said, are there any people in real life that have made their way into your stories? Can you tell us about that?
CK: Yes! There are quite a few people actually. One of my secondary characters, and Kea’s fellow soldier in the book, is Ropert. He’s one of my favorites. He’s tall, fair and handsome, built like a mountain, eats like a bear, and has the heart of a lion. Although he may look intimidating, he’s the comic relief. He was inspired by a dear friend I had in High School.
Then there is Hala Whitefox, inspired by my baby sister who is incredibly gorgeous and talented. But that is where their similarities end. Hala is rough and plows through anything and everything to get what she wants.
There is also a minor character, the shepherdess Cherry, who is a blend of another sister of mine and another high school friend. Cherry is sweet and bubbly, and can’t seem to stop talking.
Amanda: Have you ever told those people that they made it into your book? Or have they read it and said, hey, that’s a little familiar? I could just imagine the interesting conversation that would take you.
CK: I’ve told a few people, but the person who reacted the most was my little sister. She got all teary eyed and was honored to make it into my fantasy world.
Amanda: So you’ve got this fascinating world and interesting characters, what have you edited out of Roanfire Series?
CK: Hmm… the biggest thing that I've had to edit was perhaps my main character, Kea. I am a ‘people pleaser’. I don’t like to ruffle feathers and I say “I’m sorry” to almost everyone. Someone pointed out that Kea said “I’m sorry” so much that it was really annoying. I realized then that she was not the kind of person to apologize for everything she did. I had to change a lot of her responses, and to be honest, it really made her come alive.
Amanda: Oh that’s so cool. It sounds like Kea began as an extension of herself and during the process she developed into her own being. Fascinating! Okay, now let’s flip it. What was the hardest scene you had to write?
CK: The hardest scene was the end battle. I don’t want to give too much away, but I can say that when all of Kea’s senses are shut off, it’s really hard to write so that others can relate. I hope I managed to do that well. I’ve heard nothing but good, so I think it came across right.
Amanda: Oh wow, I can’t wait to get to the ending now. What a teaser! Tell us everything about your writing practice. Is there a little place you (office, cafe, in bed) you store yourself until you’ve written so many words per day?
CK: I have a beautiful white desk up in a loft, set up with my HUION pen tablet for both art and writing. But I confess, I rarely use it for writing. I have a small, very annoying, ASUS laptop that I drag around to the library, Panera Bread, and my cosy bed. I love hopping between Panera and the library because it makes me move and gets my blood flowing. Also, I don’t feel so bad hogging the space when dinner time comes around.
Amanda: And what about your process? What does it take for CK to get from idea to completed book?
CK: This is a part of writing that frustrates me. I have a vague idea of what I want to write about, but I don’t typically have a plot or storyline. Most of The Roanfire Saga has evolved as the characters unfold. It was the same with my map. I was writing so much and lost track of where all the characters were that I finally had to sit down and draw a map.
Sometimes it does well, things come together and flow. Other times, I write myself so far into a corner that I have to delete and begin again. I suppose that’s why it’s taken me so long to finish writing the series. I finally have it all out. Now it’s time to fine tune it.
Amanda: What are you reading right now?
CK: Right now I’ve been taking advantage of Audible. I do not have a lot of time to sit and read as I did before having kids. For the longest time I refused to be caught in the hype of the latest books, but the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer have caught my attention. So far I’ve read Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress. I’m really looking forward to reading Winter.
Amanda: How does your reading impact or influence your writing and your creative process?
CK: At first I was worried that it would influence my writing too much and I refused to read anything until my story was out on paper. Now I feel like that was a bit of a naive outlook. I have so much to learn from other authors. Sanderson’s poetic writing is simply beautiful, and Meyer has an excellent way of linking everything together that really makes sense. They are both very different authors, but they are both brilliant in their own ways. I did find that while I was reading “The Name of the Wind” that I focused on making my sentences flow better. Now that I’m reading Meyer, I’ve been working hard to make the story connect.
Amanda: Is there such a thing as writer’s block or a writer’s kryptonite for CK? Is so, how did you overcome that?
CK: Yes, and yes! I have a little plaque that some friends bought for me at a Renaissance fair. It says “Writer's Block: When your imaginary friends won’t talk to you.” I also find myself comparing my skill to other authors a lot. I’m never satisfied with my work. There is always something to improve on--tone, setting, dialogue, sentence structure, flow…
The one thing that has helped me overcome this is to remember why I started writing in the first place. I wrote for me. I wrote for my own adventure. I enjoyed it. I didn’t think about who would like that sentence, or who would correct my grammar, or who would be offended by something. I simply wrote. So, I keep going back to that.
Amanda: Any advice for new writers?
CK: Same as above. Write for yourself, not others.
Amanda: So you’ve got The Phoenix Host and The Leviathan Prince out. When can we expect the third installment?
CK: *Bashful laugh* My original goal was to have it out this summer. I wish I could blame it on my kids, vacation, health, or lack of time. But the truth is that I’ve been allowing myself to be distracted. Now that school will be back in session in a few weeks, my plan is to dive back into the world of Roanfire and finish before September. Hopefully with new cover art!
Amanda: I would like to say a huge thank you for coming along today. Where can we find you? (In your answer please list links.)
CK: It was a pleasure, Amanda! And I’m so thankful that you took the time to do this! You can find me on several different platforms.
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/roanfire
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/ckmillerbooks/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/_CKMiller
And my personal webpage https://www.ckmillerbooks.com